Sep 162008

Since my last post about how I could have used a Document Management (DM) system in a former life, I’ve been thinking about the statement I made about how certain I was that it would have saved the company time and money had we used a DM solution.  That’s the kind of statement that a Tech enthusiast likes to make withouth substantiation, and yes I’m a tech enthusiast.  However, it would be much more powerful to boil it down to dollars and cents.  It wouldn’t take much to truly quantify those savings either. Additionally, it wouldn’t take much effort to estimate savings and calculate a projected ROI for DM implementation.

I’m thinking back to my week of Lean Six Sigma Green Belt training, and I recall the general concept that you can’t improve a process that hasn’t been measured.  That said, it would be fairly easy to simply time someone performing a task or set of tasks before DM implementation to estimate cost savings, and then again after DM implementation to monitor progress.  You could go deep and set up a control chart if you really wanted to, which actually may yield information about special cases that cause delays, and provide further opportunities for automation.

I’m wondering if any Six Sigma experts or system integrators out there have actually done any projects that leveraged DM software to increase knowledge worker efficiency and automate their work.  If so, please comment here and share what you’ve found!

Sep 152008

Last week I began working for Alfresco Software, as I previously announced.  During that first week, I learned about Document Management, amongst other things (like the Spring Framework for example).  The end result: I wanted to kick myself.  It really would have been nice to have Alfresco’s Document Management solution in place when I was working on Gestalt/Accenture’s CMMI level 3 compliant Agile software delivery method!

Our process for defining processes was basically this:

  1. Draft the process
  2. Pilot it (and make revisions based on what was learned)
  3. Approve it
  4. Deploy it

Of course, there were several sub-steps within those processes, and they required version control, auditing, and moving documents to different folders at certain times (a document workflow).  At the time, we used Sharepoint as best we could to manage all this.  It handled version control and auditing, but it had two shortcomings as I recall.  First, there was no automated way to baseline a set of documents as being part of a release candidate (such as you can do with CVS or Subversion tagging).  Second, the moving of documents was all manual, every step of the way.  This doesn’t sound like much, but as I recall, we had six or seven folders in the workflow, and we could have used some automation when doing round robin peer reviews within our team.  And the deployment of these assets was no trivial matter; I remember it took me almost a whole day to learn how to deploy a set of process assets, and then deploy a set of them for the first time.

So as I went through “Getting Started With Document Management“, I was shaking my head the whole time.  It is so easy to create content rules and workflow rules.  Instead of manually moving documents from folder to folder, a workflow could have been set up to do that automatically.  Instead of manually notifying a teammate that it’s their turn in the round robin peer review chain, the workflow could have done that for us.  And best of all, we could have easily set up a templatized space that could have been used for all of the processes and associated documents that we delivered over the course of over two years.  Finally, because Alfresco is open source and standards based, we could have extended the platform to automate our specific processes for deploying process assets.

Considering the number of documents we handled, the amount of reviews, the number of gates in the process, and the number of people involved, I have no doubt that if we used Alfresco we would have saved a lot of time and therefore money as we defined, piloted, approved, and deployed new Agile processes across the company.

So yeah, document management software is a great thing.  I only wish I knew about it years ago.

Sep 082008

Today is my first day working with Alfresco, which I am very excited about!  Let me tell you why.

Over the weekend I read an old article by Peter Drucker called “Managing Oneself”.  In it he basically says that knowledge workers should know their strengths, how they perform best, and what their values are.  Then you can make well informed decisions regarding where you belong and what you can contribute.  I found this article very interesting in light of my recent job search.  When I started out, I knew what my strengths were.  First, I have deep technical experience as a software engineer, having spent eight of the last ten years writing software, and doing all of the things associated with it (see my profile on LinkedIn for details). Second, I’m very well versed in Agile process design, modeling, implementation, and deployment, having spent two years working with a great team on developing the processes for an Agile software development methodology that was also CMMI level 3 compliant.  That methodology is well on its way to becoming THE official Agile delivery method for Accenture. Third, I have been an active ScrumMaster since January of this year, and thus have competency with Agile project management (for which I’ve been told by several people that I do a very good job with).  Finally, I’ve always had a thirst for learning, have a commitment to delivering quality work products, and work very well as part of a team.

I perform best under deadlines. I learn best by doing, and second best by reading.  I believe that I work best as part of a small organization.  I value integrity, family, learning and growth, excellence, and service.  In the workplace, that means doing the right thing, doing it well, doing it transparently, serving the customer, and always learning and growing.  That’s the kind of environment that I want, and I believe I have found it with Alfresco.

Alfresco is an open source software company that delivers enterprise content management software.  In my new role, as I understand it, I will be doing some pre-sales work, identifying how Alfresco software can help deliver on potential customers’ needs.  I’ll also be doing some architecture and design work for customers and partners, once they’ve made a decision to use Alfresco’s software.  Finally, I’ll be doing some development, contributing back to the open source products that Alfresco offers.  In this role, I believe I can leverage my strengths as a software engineer, as a planner (the process work I did required lots of planning), and as a project manager.  I’ll get to learn and hopefully master the domain of enterprise content management.  I believe the team is a very good one, based on my interviews, a person I know that works there (Hi Jess!), and Matt Asay, whose blog I have been reading on and off since the beginning of this year.  Not to mention the successful nature of the business!

So today I begin a new journey with a new team, and I’m very excited to get started!  I hope to define exactly what I will contribute over the coming weeks while learning about enterprise content management.  If anyone has suggestions or ideas on how I can quickly come up to speed, please comment here and let me know!